Protein Rich Foods for Vegetarians

  • Author :
  • TATA AIG Team
  • Published on :
  • 02/02/2024

The current population of India has become highly conscious about what they include in their diet and how they can create a balance between different nutrients for the best outcome.

Protein has always been a popular nutrient group for anyone looking to build and sustain a healthy body. However, the common misconception that most vegetarians have about the available protein foods in India is that their choices are limited to more than just a cottage cheese (paneer) diet to meet their protein requirements.

This is a clear indication that even with the growing need to consume protein-rich foods for a healthy body, the awareness around the availability of different high-protein veg foods in India still needs to be improved.

Need for A Good Vegetarian Protein Diet

According to an online research survey, around 31% to 42% of the Indian population today is vegetarian. In 2022, the percentage of vegetarians in the Indian population stood at only 24%, clearly indicating the shifting preferences of the country's people from meat-rich diets to vegetarian diets.

Protein is an essential macronutrient that plays an integral role in your day-to-day life. From metabolic and hormonal management to immunity and tissue regeneration, consuming a protein diet is crucial for a healthy body, regardless of the diet you consume.

A protein diet allows the body to form amino acids that are also called the building blocks for the body's well-being. This diet also takes longer to digest, allowing the body to feel fuller for longer, and reduces cravings and binge eating to a bare minimum.

For most non-vegetarians, consuming meat alone fulfils a significant percentage of the recommended daily dietary intake of protein. For vegetarians, the options for high-protein vegetarian foods in India are plenty, but the list has yet to be discovered to many.

Recommended Dietary Allowance of Protein-Rich Food

As per most dietitians and general physicians, the recommended protein intake for every individual should always range between 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight and 1.8 grams per kilogram of body weight.

This range increases based on individual health goals like muscle building and regular workouts, etc. For example, for an individual who weighs 65 kilograms, the protein intake range would be between 52 grams to 117 grams.

Let us look at the recommended dietary allowance for different age groups and genders below.

Category  Recommended Protein Intake (in Grams)
Children between the ages of 1 to 3 years  13 grams 
Children between the ages of 4 to 8 years  19 grams 
Children between the ages of 9 to 13 years  34 grams 
Girls between the ages of 14 to 18 years 46 grams 
Boys between the ages of 14 to 18 years 52 grams 
Women between the ages of 19 to 70+ years 46 grams 
Men between the ages of 19 to 70+ years 56 grams 

Benefits of Protein-Rich Food for Vegetarians

Reduces Cravings - Protein-rich food, when consumed daily, increases the body’s ability to reduce cravings for effective weight loss. When you eat a high volume of protein, it suppresses your appetite by reducing the amount of hunger hormone called ghrelin. This results in a lasting feeling of fullness, which prevents unnecessary food indulgence.

Promotes Fat Burn - When you indulge in high-protein vegetarian foods in India, the time taken to digest the protein is higher than other nutrients and requires more energy. This increases the metabolic rate for better and effective digestion, which results in faster fat burn of additional calories, helping you manage your weight better.

Improves Bone Health - One of the most essential nutrients, after calcium, that impacts bone health is protein. Regular consumption of protein in adequate quantity encourages the prevention of bone-related diseases like osteoporosis.

Increases Body Muscle Mass - Protein promotes muscular development, especially during workouts revolving around strength training. Additionally, protein also helps build and manage muscle mass to accommodate healthy weight loss through fat-burning only, without muscle loss.

Faster Recovery - Protein-rich foods are necessary as they provide the body with ample support to facilitate faster tissue repair and healing, fight infections, control internal wear and tear, and more. Especially for people with an active lifestyle or athletic outlook, consuming protein is a must.

Helps Reduce Blood Pressure - Other than improving the metabolic rate of the body and maintaining muscle mass while curbing hunger pangs, protein also helps reduce blood pressure, decreasing the risk of heart attacks, strokes, etc.

List of Best Protein Foods for Vegetarians

For anyone looking to adopt a vegetarian diet, you will be amazed to find the wide variety of protein foods in the Indian market today.

From protein-rich fruits and vegetables to multiple whole grains and seeds, the list of options can help you curate endless recipes in just a few quick steps.

Here is a detailed list to help you customise your vegetarian protein diet plan.

Legumes and Beans

One of the best organic sources of protein is different types of legumes and pulses. The country's favourite Rajma Curry (kidney beans) and Channa Masala (chickpeas curry) fall under this category. All the different kinds of lentils are also part of this group, and each of them offers a good percentage of protein for daily consumption.

The list includes-**

Chickpeas- One cup of boiled or cooked chickpeas consists of approximately 14.5 grams of protein. They can be combined with salads, curries, or dips to make a tasty dish. They are also rich in calcium and fibre.

Red Kidney Beans (Rajma)- Each cup of boiled rajma has a protein content of approximately 15 grams. When combined with spices to make a curry, the protein value slightly increase and it can be added to a salad or cooked as a curry.

Lentils (Dal)- Every cup of dal/ lentils consists of over 18 grams of protein and can be eaten with any Indian bread or rice to make it a fulfilling meal. They are also a rich source of fibre, which promotes healthy digestion.

Black Kidney Beans- One cup of black kidney beans consists of around 16 grams of protein. They are commonly used in Mexican dishes but can also be added to different salads for a fulfilling meal.

Whole Grains

Incorporating whole grains in every meal is an excellent way of giving your body all the proper nutrients in appropriate amounts. Most whole grains contain a good amount of protein to make the meal’s protein index higher to meet body requirements.

The common list of whole grains that fall under high-protein vegetarian foods in India includes-**

Quinoa- One cup of cooked quinoa without any salt and spices contains over 8 grams of protein. It is commonly consumed with some curry or as a base for different salads for evening snacks or dinner meals.

Oats- When you cook 1 cup of oats with some water, the protein content in the meal goes up to almost 11 grams. Oatmeal is commonly considered a breakfast food and is prepared by adding fruits, seeds, nuts, and healthy sweeteners to kickstart the day the right way.

Millets- There are over 11 types of millets available in India, including bajra, barri, kangni, jowar, etc. They are all consumed as either snacks after roasting them or as components to different salads. Additionally, people also grind the millets together to make chapatis (flatbread) out of it to eat with curries.

Barley- Along with being a great source of protein (over 4 grams of protein), barley is a rich source of magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium, making it a great addition to your diet to fulfil your nutritional needs.

Seeds and Nuts

When it comes to healthy snacking, consuming roasted or raw seeds and nuts is an effective way to give your body the right amount of nutrients every day.

Some of the top seeds and nuts that are a great source of protein include-**

Almonds- 100 grams of almonds has over 21 grams of protein. Individuals should consume at least 6 to 8 soaked almonds every day, giving them around 2.5 grams of protein.

Peanuts- For every 100 grams of peanuts, you get over 26 grams of protein. You can add them to Indian snacks like Bhelpuri or salads to add a crunch.

Cashews- The protein in 100 grams of cashews is around 18.2 grams. You can eat them raw, roasted, or add them to dips. An important thing to remember is that cashews also contain saturated fat, and thus, sticking to consuming 10-15 cashews in a day is recommended.

Walnuts- Often consumed in the form of pesto sauce, 100 grams of walnuts get you approximately 15 grams of protein. You can add them to salads or just soak them overnight to have them every morning for an energy and protein boost.

Sunflower Seeds- Roasted sunflower seeds are a great source of protein and contain over 19 grams of protein.

Pumpkin Seeds- Pumpkin seeds are commonly added to salads and smoothies for an instant protein boost, as they contain over 19 grams of protein per 100 grams.

Chia Seeds- Every tablespoon of chia seeds contains around 3 grams of protein. You can experiment with dishes like chia seed pudding and smoothies or dress your salads and oatmeal with chia seeds for added goodness.

Dairy Products

Most people believe dairy products are only rich in calcium. However, many types of dairy products offer a high protein value post-consumption. The list includes-**

Cottage Cheese (Paneer)- One of the most popular high-protein veg foods in India is cottage cheese. Half a cup of cottage cheese contains around 14 grams of protein. It can be used to make curries, dips, salads, snacks, and much more.

Greek Yogurt- Every cup of Greek yoghurt contains over 23 grams of protein. It is very lightweight and gut-friendly and can be added to smoothie bowls, granola bowls, or even as a sour cream substitute for many meals.

Skim Milk- One cup of skimmed milk contains 8.75 grams of protein. Milk is also a rich source of calcium, which helps improve bone and teeth health.

Cheese- Other than being delicious and addictive, cheese is also a good source of protein if eaten in moderation. 100 grams of cheese contains around 22.9 grams of protein.

Vegetables and Fruits

For all vegetarians, consuming fruits and vegetables is important to meet their body’s nutritional requirements. However, some vegetables and fruits are excellent sources of protein, and the list includes-**

Green Peas- Commonly consumed in curries and soups, one cup of green peas contains 8 grams of protein.

Spinach- 100 grams of raw spinach leaves, often used in salads, contain 2.9 grams of protein. You can consume spinach in soups, curries, and more.

Broccoli- This vegetable contains all the necessary amino acids and over 2.8 grams of protein per 100 grams. You can consume it in soups, salads, roasted snacks, pasta sauces, and curries.

Banana- 1 medium-sized banana contains 1.3 grams of protein and makes for a great mid-meal snack.

Guava- One of the most protein-rich foods in the world is Guava. Every cup of Guava gives you around 4.2 grams of protein.

Avocado- Known as a nutrient-packed fruit, one avocado provides the body with fibre, carbohydrates, healthy fats, and over 3 grams of protein. You can consume them as a dip, sauce, salad component, smoothies, and much more.

Vegan Alternatives

If you are lactose-intolerant or allergic to some vegetables, nuts, seeds, or grains, there are many vegan options available for you that are rich in protein to help you meet your protein requirements.

Here are some alternatives.

  • Soy Milk

  • Tofu

  • Seitan

  • Soy

Tips to Increase Protein-Rich Food in Diet

Consume Yoghurt with Meals - Add a small cup of Greek or plain yoghurt to all your meals. It helps improve digestion and also satiates most sugar cravings post-meals while providing the body with ample protein.

Replace Fried Snacks with Roasted Seeds and Nuts - For mid-morning and evening snacks, you can consume a handful of nuts and seeds, roasted or raw. This can help you stay fuller for longer without compromising on taste and weight goals.

Consume Fresh Fruits and Vegetables - Plan and add different protein-rich fruits and vegetables with your breakfast and other snack meals to benefit from a high inflow of protein, along with other nutrients.

Start your Day with Soaked Nuts - Having 5-8 soaked almonds and 1-2 soaked walnuts first thing every morning can help you start your day with high energy while meeting your protein requirements.

Replace Wheat Flour with Millet Flour - For some meals, you can add chapatis made of different millet flours instead of wheat flour to add extra protein to your meals. They provide a higher nutritional value.

Indulge in Homemade Soups - Consume broccoli, spinach, corn and other vegetable soups regularly in place of heavy dinners or as appetisers as they are light on the stomach and contain high amounts of protein.

Final Thoughts

To conclude, consuming a rich vegetarian protein diet is extremely easy once you are aware and updated about the best protein foods for vegetarians that are easily available in India.

Adding protein-rich food to the diet is not only beneficial for overall health and well-being, but it also promotes interesting and unique ways of preparation, ensuring protein food looks appetising and tastes delicious.

It is important to note that the right way to incorporate protein into your vegetarian diet is by exploring the wide range of vegetarian protein sources in India instead of limiting yourself to a handful of options.

Additionally, remember your diet should not be impromptu or time-restricted. Instead, it should be adopted as part of your lifestyle to get the best results.

Role of Health Insurance

Making lifestyle changes and adopting a healthy lifestyle with a balance of physical and mental well-being is something you can control. However, some diseases and medical emergencies attack out of the blue.

To secure yourself from an unexpected financial burden in time of need, investing in a medical insurance plan is very important, and Tata AIG is here to help. We offer a wide range of customisable health insurance plans to cater to the specific coverage needs and budget constraints of individuals.

Our health insurance plans are designed to ensure maximum financial support during medical emergencies to help reduce the financial load of overcoming the situation alone.

From critical illness coverage to a hospital network of over 10,000 hospitals around India, we provide maximum convenience to all our customers.

To buy the best health insurance plan for your specific needs, all you need to do is visit our website, compare health insurance plans available for your needs, and make the premium payment to begin your journey.


Can I take protein supplements to meet my protein requirements?

People who usually have an active lifestyle require more protein than an average person with a sedentary lifestyle. In such cases, doctors or dieticians prescribe or recommend active people consume 1 to 2 scoops of protein powder or supplements throughout the day to help them meet their protein requirements. However, always consult a professional before starting anything new.

How much cheese is considered healthy?

Consuming around 5% to 7% of your daily calorie intake is considered healthy by most doctors. However, this percentage can vary for people based on multiple factors like the form of cheese consumption, lifestyle, physical activity level, etc.

Is adding spices or roasting nuts with a bit of salt and oil harmful to the body?

Lightly roasting seeds and nuts with a pinch of salt and a small teaspoon of oil is completely fine to make a healthy trail mixture for snacking. However, it is important to monitor the spices or amount of oil added for roasting as extra content of the same can defeat the purpose of healthy snacking.

Disclaimer: This is a general guide on protein-rich foods for vegetarians. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice. It is advisable to consult a qualified health professional for treatment in severe cases.

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